The board that oversees the Institute of Museum Services has a problem. The IMS (which gives out money to keep museums open late, lights turned on, paintings and visitors warm in the winter and cool in the summer) is a federal agency and the Reagan administration wants to abolish it, fiscal year. The new director, Lilla Tower (wife of Sen. John Tower, R-Tex. ), agrees. The board opposes. Well, probably. They can't vote on the issue, they told Rep. Sidney Yates (D-Ill.), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, at a hearing Monday.

They can't vote because the IMS' legal counsel said the board needed a quorum at its last meeting. There should be 15 presidentially appointed board members, but there are only six. Eight constitute a quorum. If the board had taken a vote, the director (who must carry out board policy) would probably be bound to represent the board's position.

"I can't understand why the counsel decided that way," said Yates, who asked for the opinion in writing. "The counsel's interpretation paralyzes the board and puts Tower in a position of being a dictator. It's not the board's fault that the president hasn't made any appointments."